Thinking of writing a book? Ask yourself these questions first

By Lori

Will writing a book make me famous?About that book you wrote…

So maybe you haven’t written a book (yet), but you KNOW that you’ve got a book inside you, bursting to be read by the world.

You are not alone.

According to writer Joseph Epstein,

“81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them — and should write it.”

Ahem, that’s approximately 200 million people who aspire to authorship. But only a small percentage actually do write a book.

And those few who do finish their books take an average of four to seven years to publish it.

The harsh reality

A few months ago, a woman that I’ve known for years made me an offer:

“I want you to help me write a book telling my story. I can’t pay you, but it’ll be big, and I’ll give you a share of the profits!”


That’s the sad delusion that some would-be authors believe. Their book will “discovered” as the next Good to Great/Fifty Shades of Grey/Four Hour Work Week/Last Lecture, all rolled into one.

A media juggernaut will ensue.

Oprah will bring back her talk show – one night only – to snag a triumphant interview with you, the author.

Reality really bites

The truth is, there are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone. About half are self-published. On average, they sell less than 250 copies each. [, Jan 8, 2013]

250 copies. Not enough to spring you to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List or even the Amazon Sub-Sub-Category-Bestseller-During-that-One-Hot-Minute List.

So if most books don’t become bestsellers, make a pile of cash or sell zillions of copies, why the heck should any self respecting future A-Lister slog through the hard work of publishing a book?

I’ll let Seth Godin (the author of 17 books) tell you:

“The return on equity and return on time for authors and for publishers is horrendous. If you’re doing it for the money, you’re going to be disappointed. On the other hand, a book gives you leverage to spread an idea and a brand far and wide. There’s a worldview that’s quite common that says that people who write books know what they are talking about and that a book confers some sort of authority.”

Do it for the authority.

Some PR studies show that becoming a published author increases your credibility by 300%.

More credibility means that more people will listen to your message.

And hire you.

And follow your advice.

So, if you’ve dreamed of the words, “author of…” appearing in your bio, ask yourself these two questions:

1. Why do I want to write a book?

2. Which do I have, time or money?

You should write a book if _________.

You should write a book if you’ve got a big idea that you want to spread far and wide.

If you can offer something more meaningful or useful than the usual advice or inspiration on a topic.

If you can say something that’s already been said, but in a new way, for a new audience.

Time or money? A tale of two authors

Even after you’ve decided to write a book – for the right reasons – you’re flooded with choices to make: Look for a traditional publisher or self publish? Write your book as quickly as possible to “get it out there” or devote years to create your Pulitzer-worthy masterpiece?

Let’s look at two authors I know who’ve both published books in the last two years.

Book #1 is business advice book, aimed at small business owners.

Cost to produce and publish: $10,000-$15,000.

The costs included a ghostwriter, a professional editor, a graphic designer to lay out the cover and interior pages, as well as printing the book. It’s available on Amazon as a Kindle, and a paperback. She also has printed copies to sell or giveaway.

Book #2 is an advice book for career women.

Cost to produce and publish: around $1500.

Her costs included an editor/writer, an overseas graphic designer and a book uploading service and printing the book. It’s available on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks and as a printed paperback.

Why did one book cost almost ten times more to produce? And was it worth it?

More money than time

The author of Book #1 is a coach for small businesses. She’d conducted substantial research with small business owners to discover what made certain businesses thrive during the Recession (a killer premise for a book!)

Her clients are the owners of small businesses, usually with teams of 5-20 employees, who pay her tens of thousands of dollars each year to be coached. She did not have the time or the inclination to sit down and write 250 pages herself.

Instead, she hired a ghostwriter to interview her, and write the book content in her voice, using her words, but without her time. (That practice is more common than you may know – 80% of all non-fiction books are completely or partially ghost-written.)

Being a published author increased her credibility and positioned her as a small business expert. Which led to more high profile speaking engagements and media coverage.

Getting just one new client covered the cost of publishing the book.

More time than money

Our second author is a career coach for women. Her clients typically book a few sessions with her to get through workplace challenges or to negotiate a promotion and raise.

She wanted to write a book to share the answers to the questions she’s asked most often and to give women a boost of confidence, so that they ask for (and get!) what they want in the corporate world.

Her process:

Author #2 used an editor strategically, to take existing blog posts and arrange the content into a book structure. She then filled in the gaps, added some stories and let the editor take another crack, making it a seamless narrative.

Next, she bargained with a talented designer friend to lay out the page design template, and sent the template to an overseas graphic designer who did the rest for about $200.

She used Bookbaby, a publishing service to design the cover and take care of getting the book on Amazon, Apple and other platforms.


  • Her book is slim (which her readers actually love!) so she was able to produce it in three months or less, from start to finish.
  • She has a designer’s eye, so she was able to coax great cover art from Bookbaby’s basic design service. She is also meticulous about proofreading, so the book is professional and mistake free.

Boom! A marketing tool that spreads her message and gives prospective clients a try-it-before-you-buy-it taste of her coaching. (She sells loads of books at speaking gigs.)

The bottom line

Both of these books are successful tools that promote the authors’ authority. Each was written to offer advice to her target client, based on years of experience solving their challenges.

Your Fame Boosting Assignment

If you know that you have a book in you, this week spend a little time thinking about your motivation for publishing…do you have advice or a message that people need to read? Next, brainstorm how you can use your strengths and resources to get your book written and published.

Your words might be exactly the spark we need! Get shining, superstar.

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